This past weekend Warner Bros. and DC launched the third installment in the DC Extended Universe, and while Suicide Squad has been a financial hit so far, the reaction from critics was undoubtedly mixed. The bar for what qualifies as a good superhero (or supervillain) movie has shifted dramatically over the past decade, and one of the films responsible for raising the bar was Batman Begins, the first film in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.
While Batman Begins may best be remembered for the origin of Christian Bale's take on Bruce Wayne, it also gave Cillian Murphy the chance to show what he could do as a classic comic book villain - Dr. Jonathan Crane a.k.a. Scarecrow. Even with this role arguably being his most recognizable role to date, and one that he reprised in both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Murphy has since lost interest in superhero movies.
In a recent interview with Vulture to promote his upcoming film Anthropoid, Murphy discussed the state of the genre and questioned why studios are choosing to make these lesser-known and more obscure properties into movies in the first place. Murphy points to Nolan's ability to keep his movies "grounded" in a recognizable reality, and admits to not even watching Marvel movies at all.
"Have they exhausted every single comic book ever?... I don’t know where they’re coming from anymore... It was a different time back when we made Batman Begins. I think that Chris [Nolan] has to take credit for making that trilogy of films. I think they’re so grounded in a relatable reality... Nobody in those films ever had a superpower. Do you know what I mean? It’s a slightly heightened level of storytelling, where New York is Gotham, and no one did anything magical. Batman in his movies just did a lot of pushups and was, like, British. So that’s what I loved about them. My kids love the Marvel movies, but I don’t know. I don’t watch them."
Nolan's ability to keep these movies grounded, as Murphy says, certainly had an effect on the way Warner Bros. launched the DCEU, with rumors at one time circulating that the studio hoped to retain Bale's services. With that in mind, superhero movies are changing and growing, which means more characters will have to be used outside of big names like Batman or Spider-Man. The box office performances for lesser-known properties like Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy, or even Ant-Man have proven that there is plenty of interest in the genre.
As long as people continue to see these movies, despite critical or fan reception, the genre will continue to live on. Even though Murphy's personal interest has declined, the general public's interest continues to rise.
Murphy's next film, Anthropoid, opens in select U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016.